U of A heads to space in 2016 to investigate asteroid

Jan 4, 2014, 2:40 PM | Updated: 2:50 pm

The fate of Earth may rest in the University of Arizona’s hands.

All drama aside, the Tucson-based institution is leading the OSIRIS-REx project, an unmanned spacecraft that will launch in Sept. 2016 to investigate a near-Earth asteroid.

Called “Bennu,” the asteroid is the size of four football fields and is the “most most accessible organic-rich (carbon-rich) asteroid from the early solar system,” according to NASA. They hope the asteroid will be able to shed more light on not just what the conditions were like at the start of our solar system, but also how life was formed on our own planet.

The project’s acronym equates to a mind-boggling mouthful — “Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer” — and was named after the ancient Egyptian god.

“Osiris was formed from pieces scattered across ancient Egypt, where he awoke as the bringer of life and ruler of the underworld,” Dr. Dante Lauretta, a professor at the university and the project’s principal investigator, said in a press release. “Our spacecraft has a similar story — it will consist of components fabricated in locations around the world, that once together, will allow us to connect with a near-Earth object that is an accessible remnant from the formation of our solar system.”
While the spacecraft isn’t slated to reach the asteroid until 2018, Lauretta already hails it as a “pioneering effort, both technologically and scientifically,” Lauretta said.

The OSIRIS-REx project will be managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., while Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, Colo. will build the spacecraft.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Chandler Police Department Photo)...

Chandler police ask for community help identifying public indecency, stalking suspect

Chandler police is asking for community assistance in identifying a suspect of public sexual indecency and felony stalking, authorities said.
1 day ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Arizona woman accused of fatally shooting husband, young son

A northern Arizona woman is facing federal charges in the shooting deaths of her husband and young son last week, according to authorities.
1 day ago
Mark Brnovich, a Republican, smiles as he talks with people on the floor of the Arizona House of Re...
Associated Press

Arizona announces $85M settlement with Google over user data

Arizona AG Mark Brnovich said his office reached an $85 million settlement with Google to resolve a lawsuit that accused the tech company of “surreptitiously” obtaining user data to sell advertisements.
1 day ago
(Arizona Humane Society Photo)...
Alex Weiner

139 rabbits rescued in Glendale, in need of foster homes

The Arizona Humane Society is in need of foster homes for 139 rescued rabbits that were hoarded in Glendale.
1 day ago
Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images, File)...
Associated Press

Jan. 6 committee attorney says Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward pleaded Fifth

Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a House Jan. 6 committee deposition, according to an attorney for the panel.
1 day ago
Canyon State Academy (Google Street View)...

1 dead, 2 hospitalized after possible drug overdose at Queen Creek school

One student died and two others were hospitalized after a possible drug overdose Monday night at a residential school for at-risk boys in Queen Creek, authorities said.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
U of A heads to space in 2016 to investigate asteroid